A LIFE OF ONE'S OWN: Three Gifted Women and the Men They Married. by Joan Dash

A LIFE OF ONE'S OWN: Three Gifted Women and the Men They Married.

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Three biographical studies with a single feminist motif. How does a successful woman, achieving career eminence in her own right, handle the demands of marriage and children? What sort of man does she marry and how does his male ego assimilate the reflected glory of a more gifted and illustrious mate? Ms. Dash pursues this theme in the lives of her three heroines -- Margaret Sanger, the founder-evangelist of the American birth control movement; Edna St. Vincent Millay, the gamine poetess who sang ""a woman's right to love as willfully and capriciously as a man,"" and Maria Goeppert-Mayer, the first woman ever to receive a Nobel Prize in theoretical physics. Dash avoids any semblance of doctrinaire feminism; with great sensitivity her subjects are refracted through the women's lib prism. Obviously admiring her three rebels Dash succeeds in integrating their intimate emotional dynamics, their public personae and their intellectual passions. The men turn out to be as psychologically fascinating as their wives and one, Eugene Jan Boissevain, the gentle and enormously attractive ""pirateking"" who nursed and nurtured Millay through 25 years of marriage ""like a mother,"" all but outshines Vincent. Margaret Sanger, a celebrant of the joys of the flesh who believed in ""the absolute, elemental, inner urge of womanhood"" was less lucky; the price of her unfettered development included mutiny against domesticity and a jealously adoring husband -- and lifelong remorse over the neglect of her own children. The third, Maria Goeppert-Mayer, only child of six generations of university professors, was reared in the bracing intellectual atmosphere of a scientific community which included Max Born, James Franck, Enrico Fermi, Heisenberg, Pauli and Oppenheimer. Her marriage, to an American chemist, was the most harmonious and egalitarian -- two fully complementary personalities melded in effortless cooperation. Three beautifully traced portraits in feminine self-realization and the psychic gains, losses and conflicts of emancipation.

Pub Date: Jan. 24th, 1972
Publisher: Harper & Row